By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – The family, lawyers and colleagues of development worker Dr. Ma. Natividad Marian Castro called on the authorities to surface her.
Castro, or Doc Naty, was arrested on Feb. 18 in her house in San Juan City allegedly based on an arrest warrant on trumped-up charges of kidnapping and serious illegal detention in Caraga.
According to lawyer Theodor Te, Castro’s whereabouts are still unknown. She was reportedly last seen by her relatives at Camp Crame. Upon inquiry, Te said police officers told the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG) that Castro is no longer at Camp Crame as “she was supposedly brought to the airport to be delivered to the court in Butuan City.”
[Edited; typo] FLAG Statement on the Arrest and Detention and Demand for the Whereabouts of Dr. Ma. Natividad Castro pic.twitter.com/3wY8SrmRkd
— Ted Te (@TedTe) February 18, 2022
Her lawyers waited at the airport yesterday afternoon but they did not see Castro nor the arresting team. As of press time, Castro is yet to be found.
Former Commission on Elections Luie Tito Guia who was with Castro’s family yesterday said they were given a runaround. In a Facebook post, Guia said he was only allowed to talk to his client for a few minutes while at the Quirino Memorial Medical Center. When Castro was taken out of a building, Guia said he asked for the names of the arresting team but he was ignored and the police vehicle sped away.
Before her arrest, Castro was red-tagged along with 32 other progressive leaders in November 2020. Their photos and names appeared on tarpaulins in Lianga, Surigao del Sur and Butuan City, Agusan del Norte. On March 21, 2021, one of those who were red-tagged, Lumad human rights worker Renalyn Tejero, was arrested in Cagayan de Oro City.
Read: Lumad human rights worker abducted in Cagayan de Oro
Karapatan said the arrest of Castro is another form of attack against human rights defenders.
“This despicable policy and practice of the Duterte regime of filing trumped up charges against rights defenders in an attempt to silence them should stop,” the group said.
Karapatan Secretary Deneral Cristina Palabay lamented that those who are guilty of seven counts of graft are still at large while a doctor who is helping the poor is being accused of being a criminal.
The group said Castro could have made a prominent career in medicine in the urban areas or even abroad after her graduation, but she chose to work in the rural areas of Mindanao.
Castro, is, in fact, a cum laude in BS Zoology in University of the Philippines-Diliman in 1990. In 1995, she graduated with a degree in Medicine at the UP College of Medicine. She was also a Scholastican High School Valedictorian in 1986.
In 2006, Castro’s alma mater, St. Scholastica’s College-Manila honored her with the Centennial Award as one of the 100 Outstanding Graduates in the last century.
“There is a huge lack of doctors in the rural areas where one out of 10 Filipinos die without even being able to have a health consultation. There are only a few doctors who choose to work for the poor. Why arrest her?” the Health Alliance for Human Rights said. (RTS, RVO)